MFB48: Battle with the Harpy

Edmund asked the Squirrels to guide them to the Harpy’s lair and, though the small Creatures shuddered with fright at the thought of going so near the dreaded she-monster, they agreed to do so in the hopes of having their land rid of her for good. They took heart at being invited to ride the Horses with the two Sons of Adam; Mr. Tumnus preferred to walk with his fellow Fauns so the two bigger Squirrels rode Phineas together. Rustleleaf, the one riding with Per, consented to let him stroke his fur when he saw how the boy admired it, so Per was able to forget the dangerous purpose of their journey for a while.

They headed west through woods thick with brambles, having to hack their way through the worst parts, but eventually arrived at the base of the sheer cliff that separated Narnia from the Western Wild. Edmund and his small retinue — Per, seven Fauns, five Satyrs, three Horses, and four Squirrels — all looked up the craggy cliff-face to the dark gash in the rock that was the entrance to the Harpy’s cave.

“Well. It wouldn’t do to try to climb it,” Edmund said with a sigh. “Even if we made it up there, she could come flying out at any time and pick us off the cliff like so many sitting ducks. If we had ropes, now, we might have a chance; but she could just as easily drop the grappling hooks and let us fall to our deaths.”

“It would seem, Your Majesty, that we have need of wings,” Mr. Tumnus suggested.

“As we cannot grow them upon our own backs, we must borrow from those who have them,” Edmund agreed. “Nutshell, you said that the Owls have left these parts for lack of food. What other great Birds might still be nearby?”

“There is Nightplume the Raven, Sire, and one or two Eagles in the North Pines,” the Squirrel answered.

“Hardly enough to carry all of us up there, let alone at once,” Edmund mused out loud. “How long would it take the fleetest of us to reach the North Pines?”

“We could be there and back by nightfall, Your Majesty,” Mitchell offered.

“Your Highness, if I may,” Echaphas, one of the local Satyrs, interrupted. “There are Winged Horses living in the Western Wild that may assist us. Not a fortnight ago I saw one flying along the cliffs as though searching for something; perhaps it was seeking to destroy the Harpy itself.”

“That would be most helpful, if they would be willing to carry us up,” Edmund said. “Nutshell, would you ask Nightplume the Raven to present our request to the Winged Horses?”

“Of course, King Edmund,” Nutshell replied, then took off through the tree branches, his tail bristled in excitement.

“I just hope Nightplume knows where the Winged Horses live,” Edmund remarked.

“They should not be hard to find, my Lord,” Echaphas assured him. “They are large creatures, easy enough to spot even when they are not flying.”

This reminded them that if the Harpy were looking out from her lair, the Horses (of the non-winged variety) would be clearly visible as well, so the party moved back under the cover of the forest.

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Nightplume did indeed know where the Winged Horses lived and was more than happy to take the missive to them, as Nutshell reported upon his return. The group had found a hollow suitable for pitching their camp, and while they were settling in they were startled by two stately Oak Dryads who approached and bowed before the king.

“Hail, King Edmund, Duke of Lantern Waste,” said the taller (and older) of the two in his low, rumbling voice. “The little ones of the forest have whispered news of your presence here. They say you have come to vanquish the abhominable Creature that has plagued our woods these past few months. We come to lend whatsoever aid we may, our Lord.”

“That is indeed our business here,” Edmund replied, his face grim. “We hope to enlist the Winged Horses to carry us up to the monster’s lair and there engage her in combat. It may be a perilous enterprise, and we know not yet if the Winged Horses will assist us. Is there any chance you and the other Trees could help us scale the cliff?”

“Up the sheer rock, Your Majesty? It is not impossible, but it would take our roots days, weeks, even months to break apart the stone,” the Oak answered. “However, if you find the Winged Ones willing to carry your army, we shall gather as many Trees as live in these parts to stand guard below, to catch any that may fall and be in danger of breaking their limbs.”

“Splendid! That will remove the greater part of the Harpy’s advantage over us,” Edmund said, his expression brightening.

“Then we shall not delay in gathering the supple Beeches and Aspens, our brothers the Firs and the Rowans.”

The two Dryads bowed again before departing in different directions into the wood. Watching them leave, Edmund was struck with an idea.

“Per, are you any good at climbing trees?”

“I—I don’t know, Your Majesty. It’s been a long time since I’ve attempted it…”

“Well, let’s find the tallest one around here and see if we can’t get a better view of that cave.”

The two boys scrabbled their way up a pine tree with the assistance of the three remaining Squirrels, who gave them such impossible directions (assuming that Sons of Adam could leap as high as they were tall, like Squirrels could) that Edmund thought to himself that they might manage better without. Their clothes were smeared with sap in the process and their hands suffered a few minor scratches, but after several minutes Edmund was able to survey the entrance of the cave from his perch near the top of the tree. The opening was three quarters of the way up the cliff — a difficult if not impossible climb, while also a dangerous descent from the top of the rock. The cavern looked to have been formed by a river that had cut into a fissure of the rock before crashing to the lower land below, much like the Great Falls, though there was no sign of water now. Edmund surmised that the Hundred Years’ Winter might have altered the course of the headwaters with accumulated ice.

“Looks like flying is the only way to reach it,” Edmund muttered. Per’s stomach felt hollow at the thought of being taken up into the air by a large winged Creature, but he held his tongue. It was just as well, for a minute later they saw the great forms of a dozen Flying Horses — with gleaming white, black, and chestnut hides — soaring over the cliffs. Edmund waved his stained kerchief as a signal to them, after which the Winged Ones circled for a few minutes, looking for a place to land. They dipped out of sight into the trees a little way south, then came galloping into the camp before Edmund and Per had quite made it down to the ground.

“Hail, King Edmund, Count of the Western March!” the first one cried in a Horsey voice as he pulled up a few paces from the tree and bowed to Edmund with his wings outspread. “Hail! Hail!” the other Winged Horses echoed behind him.

“Well met, my friends,” Edmund responded gravely before dropping down from the lowest branch. Per fell to the ground in a less dignified heap behind him, his embarrassment compounded by the sight of the magnificent Flying Horses. For, although all Narnian Talking Horses are graceful and strong (and would put a normal horse in our world to shame), the Winged Horses of the Western Wild are more glorious still, their flanks muscular and their hides glossy, with thick manes and tails that streamed behind them when their powerful wings bore them aloft. Per only barely managed to get to his feet, so taken was he at the sight of the awe-inspiring Creatures.

“We come to offer you our service, my Lord,” the first Flying Horse declared. “If you have need of us to carry you to the wicked monster’s lair, we would gladly render our wings for as long as you may command; however, our teeth are sharp as well and our hoofs strong. If the Harpy can be brought into the open air for fair engagement, it shall know the fury of the Winged Guardians of the West. We have long since known of its preying on our fair cousins, the Talking Beasts of Narnia, and would have torn the monster’s wings asunder had Aslan given us opportunity. Lead us, O King, and let this land be rid of all such vile fiends!”

“Indeed, your teeth and hoofs may very well be needed to destroy the foul demon,” Edmund told them, “but as I have sworn to the families of those slain by the Harpy to kill her myself, I am loath to let the ugly task fall to any other if it is at all possible to do the deed by my own hand. And so I ask of you, carry as many of our party as are fit for battle (and small enough to enter yonder cave) to the entrance and await our return. We shall have aid ere long in the form of our friends, the Trees, who will prepare a net of their limbs below to prevent any of us from falling to his death, should the battle prove more difficult than we foresee.”

“We shall be ready to fly at your command, Your Majesty,” the Flying Horse replied with a neat little bow.

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The woods grew subtly more crowded as the Talking Trees began assembling at the foot of the cliff. Per was learning the different kinds of Trees from Rustleleaf while the large Elms and shimmering Birches took up their positions, creating a dense, intertwining net of branches that soon blocked the sunlight from the forest floor. After some discussion with the elders of the Trees, the Fauns and Satyrs, and Choreus, the captain of the Winged Horses, Edmund decided to launch their attack on the Harpy as soon as enough Trees had gathered.

“By all accounts, Harpies are nocturnal Creatures,” Edmund explained. “She attacked Lloyd the Badger and Rupert’s two brothers at night. If we enter the cave by day, she may still be sleeping and we would have the advantage of surprise.”

“We should take torches, Your Majesty,” Mr. Tumnus suggested. “If she is avoiding the light of day, we may be able to blind her with the light of fire.”

“Jolly good idea,” Edmund agreed, and the Trees obliged by shedding several of their long limbs. Some of the Pines supplied them with pitch and the Fauns gathered rushes to bind around the ends and so, armed with torches and a few swords, the company mounted the Flying Horses. The last few Trees crowded round the foot of the cliff, lifting their arms and weaving their branches together. After checking that all were ready, Edmund led the charge by raising his torch and shouting, “For Narnia!”

Per bit his lip to keep from crying out as his mount went almost immediately into a canter, then a gallop, its great black wings beating the air on either side with powerful strokes. He clung to the Horse’s neck as they reached the clearing, and with a great rush of wind, the majestic Beast kicked off the ground to become airborne. Per thought he had left his stomach behind him and worried for a moment that he might be sick, but once aloft the Winged Horse flew quite smoothly. The boy looked about, shocked to find that they were already high above the Trees and getting higher still. He had no time to admire the view, however, for they were fast approaching the cave.

As planned, Edmund was the first to leap from the back of his ride to the narrow passage in the rock; he rolled as he landed, managing to keep his torch over his head so that he did not burn himself or extinguish the flames. He quickly ascertained that the Harpy was not near the mouth of the cave, then motioned for Per to follow. Although the flight through the air had been relatively smooth, it took the Winged Horse much effort to stay in the same position – while Per struggled to stand upon its back, its wings beat the air to stay aloft, and the Creature could not help but move back and forth with a surging motion at every flap. Finally finding his balance and not daring to look down, Per leapt into the cavern and stumbled to his knees. At least he had not dropped the torch, and although he felt a slight twinge in his ankle, it was not sprained.

Edmund helped him to his feet and pulled him further in as the Fauns and Satyrs began entering in the same manner. They all drew their swords before stepping into the depths of the cave, carefully lighting their way with the torches since the tunnel was filled with jagged stalagmites that would trip them as well as pointed stalactites that threatened to spear the head of any unwary Creature. It occurred to Per that they looked like teeth; the unpleasant thought made him shiver, but he kept close behind Edmund as they quietly picked their way deeper into the cave.

The passage had been wide enough for three to walk abreast at the entrance, but it grew gradually narrower until they were forced to walk single file. Edmund insisted on going first, refusing Echaphas’ offer to lead with a curt shake of his head. Seeing his grim but determined expression in the torchlight, Per realised with sudden awe that the young man – barely more than a boy – whom he served as a Squire was not only a Knight but also a true King of Narnia.

After they had turned a bend in the tunnel, Edmund pointed his naked sword at what looked like a curved stick on the ground; with a shudder, Per saw that it was actually a bone, perhaps the rib of a large Animal. There began to be a foul stench in the air as well, which grew more pungent the further they went. Soon there were bones (and other nasty things) strewn everywhere, so much so that they were forced to mind every step they took – if they kicked something by mistake, the sound could alert the Harpy to their presence. At long last they came to a place where the cavern grew wider, and Edmund shone his torch on the snoring form of the hideous creature as it lay on a pile of bones.

“Rise, foul hag!” the young king called out in a voice that rang with authority. “Prepare to meet your fate, for I have sworn by Aslan’s mane to avenge the blood of my people!”

The Harpy started at the sound and was on her feet in an instant, but Mr. Tumnus was proven right: she was blinded by the light of the torches, having been used to the darkness of her cave and venturing out only at night. Nevertheless, she groped and thrashed out with her filthy claws, shrieking in anger at the intruders. The cave soon echoed with her cries as Edmund brought his sword down upon her arms, neatly severing first one, then the other, to prevent her from scratching him. Glancing at the limbs lying upon the ground, Per thought with grim satisfaction that they would never snatch up another Creature, never tear another Badger or Squirrel or Mole to its awful death again.

The Harpy hugged what was left of her arms to her chest, howling in pain yet still hissing with rage as well.

“I’ll eats you! Every one of you, I’ll rips apart and pulls the hearts out while it beats! And I’ll eats it, yes, I will!”

“Silence! You shall not harm another Beast in my realm.” Edmund pointed his sword-tip at the Harpy’s throat. “I only give you this one chance to repent of your evil deeds before I send you to your death, so that perhaps the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea might grant you mercy hereafter.”

The Creature screamed at the mention of the Emperor, then spat blindly at Edmund, missing his tunic by a mere inch.

“I’ll eats all the fat piggies and furries I wants! This was the White Lady’s land, it was! The Talking Pigs she gives me to eats, yes, she did! They never listens to what she tells them, so she tells me to eats them all up! Nasty piggies…”

“Enough! I see that you are incapable of remorse.” Edmund mouth was set in a hard line. “Prepare to meet your Maker, fiend!”

As the king drew his sword back for the final blow and stepped closer to the Harpy, Per noticed that the Creature was suddenly spreading its wings, and he also saw that at each joint of the bat-like appendages there were curved, cruel-looking claws as well.

“Look out!” he shouted, but he knew before he had spoken the words that the warning would not be enough.


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A/N: I just saw “The Hobbit” so the Harpy sounds like Gollum… ^_^;

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8 Comments

  1. ni.de.ai.ren

     /  2012/12/30

    okay so ive posted this comment on fanfic already but i wanted to make sure u saw it 😀

    oh the suspense! poor edmund i hope peter kisses his wounds away! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR A NEW CHAPTER!!! i was so excited to see another chapter i almost lost my breath! i could kiss u for this new chapter, thank you thank you thank you. you have no idea how much i flippin love this story. I AM IN LOOOVE WITH THIS AMAZING STORY!

    Reply
  2. Wonderful! Oh, I’m so glad that you updated this story! I couldn’t help myself, and I read it over again, which just cemented how much I really want the boys to be together. Poor Edmund! I hope he doesn’t get too hurt! Though the thought of Peter nursing him back to health is really tempting… And perhaps just the thing to get the two boys to confess their love for one another? Much can happen in the delirium of fever after all… I’m really looking forward to your next update! Do you know how soon you might be able to grace us with your lovely writing?

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I have to go back to work tomorrow, but I do hope I won’t keep you waiting as long as for this last chapter (which was really hard to write for some odd reason). You’re right in that the boys need to confess their feelings, though — soon!

      Reply
  3. Chloe83

     /  2013/01/01

    oh my god!! new chapter!!!! thank you so much!! i can see brave kingly boy Edmund , i hope Edmund wouldn’t get hurt much 🙂

    Reply
  4. OMGOSH I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS STORY!!! I hope Peter and Edmund have some lovey dovey time after this!!! I swear I didn’t even shipped Peter and Edmund until I read your story!! I LOVE IT!! This chapter I like..ANOTHER! I swear I can’t wait!! :3 ❤ ❤

    Reply

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